Scam store fronts an emerging threat for brand owners, says Lego

Lego's position as the best-selling toy brand of all time means it has a long history of battling counterfeits, so when it highlights an emerging trend to look out for it's advisable to take notice.

The pandemic forced people indoors around the world and added impetus to the already-established trend of relying more on online shopping, which is well known to raise the risk of encountering fake goods.

A new trend however has been the proliferation of online scams, particularly fake store fronts and phishing sites, which can be almost impossible to distinguish from a brand owner's own online platforms, according to Carolina Guiga, director, government & public affairs Americas, at Lego Group.

That ties into a recent survey which found that websites were cited as the source of counterfeit goods more frequently than online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Alibaba as well as social platforms.

Lego has also seen an increase in the use of social media as a conduit for illegitimate advertising of counterfeit goods. Within that category, influencer marketing has emerged as a powerful tool – used by both brand name companies and fraudsters.

"When we're talking about a product…that is going to a child, there is always concern about the quality of the product and if there are any safety concerns," she told a webinar hosted by brand protection specialist OpSec Security.

While Lego rigorously manufacture their products to meet safety laws, there is no guarantee that knock-off products have gone through any kind of safety testing. That raises the risk of toxic materials being used in their construction, for example, or other safety measures being sidestepped.

Genuine Lego figures' heads have a hole in the middle, for example, to guard against the risk of choking they inadvertently get into the hands of very small children.

"There are still a large number of consumers who unknowingly fall victim to these scams," said Guiga. "It is our responsibility to protect our consumers and the brand from…confusion about copycat products."

Fake store fronts weren't a priority are for Lego's brand protection team until about a year ago, but the company had to pivot sharply to react to the evolution in the modus operandi of the counterfeiters.

"One of the strategies we implemented was to work directly with our community of fans," for example by communicating the risks and providing tips on how to spot the scam store fronts, she added.

OpSec's senior manager of global relationships – Nancy Merritt – said that predicting the next social media trend or popular platform is almost impossible, so companies should focus on being flexible and agile so they can react quickly to emerging threats.

Like Lego, brands should develop strategies to raise awareness among consumers of the risks of counterfeit products, work collaboratively with law enforcement, and foster collaboration with others in their industry as well as other organisations like the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre and US Patent and Trademark Office.

Image by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay

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